Yesterday afternoon as Terri and I drove home from a funeral service, it was interesting to see groups large and small standing in parking lots and on sidewalks looking skyward. Though Ohio did not find itself in the path of totality, as it were, anyone outside yesterday could see the skies darken a bit and feel the temperature drop eerily… I even thought I heard crickets begin to sing their song a little louder. As a shadow literally passed over our nation I was reminded again of the shadows of evil, hatred and anger that have permeated our nation’s headlines which creates another type of shadow on our fine land. Regardless of the national issue or disagreement, the light of harmony, and unity has been dimmed before. The thing is, I tend to view everything in life through the lens of scripture. Thus, my understanding of every cultural challenge is biblical! My good friend Pastor Jim Garlow framed it this way. “Through theological lenses. I use words like sin, evil and repentance, rather than words like pathological or mental illness. The original Nazi concepts and the present day manifestations of it are, simply put, evil personified. Any such claim to ‘supremacy’ or ‘racial superiority’ originates with Satan himself who comes to steal, kill and destroy. The antidote is equally theological: conviction of sin from the Holy Spirit, repentance of sin (racism in this case), and allowing Jesus to be Lord of one’s life. Wherever Jesus is truly exalted and the Holy Spirit fully and totally reigns, blacks and white (and all others) work together and learn to love each other.”
When we begin to think with renewed minds we deal with challenging areas wisely. In Paul’s second letter to a church in the city of Corinth he writes, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” It’s where we come to the place where every thought is obedient to Christ. In the paraphrase “The Message” those verses are rendered, “The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way… never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” I love that! So what’s the answer to the current needs of our national disharmony? Let me suggest two things.
First, it starts with thinking correctly about ourselves! Listen to more of Paul’s insight,
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” This is about guarding against error here. He is saying to everyone not to hyper-think about himself. To think reasonably about yourself. There are things God has equipped you to do… do them! There are things you are not to do… don’t do them! A sound reasonable approach is what God desires! Secondly it involves thinking correctly about others! In another place Paul writes… “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;” Newsflash… God created us all! And he created us the same! If we forget that, then there are powers that will distort truth and turn God’s creation against itself.
Former president Ronald Reagan once had an aunt who took him to a cobbler for a pair of new shoes. The cobbler asked young Reagan, “Do you want square toes or round toes?” Unable to decide, Reagan didn’t answer, so the cobbler gave him a few days. Days later the cobbler saw Reagan and asked him again what kind of toes he wanted on his shoes. Reagan still couldn’t decide, the shoemaker replied, “Well, come by in a couple of days. Your shoes will be ready.” When the future president did so, he found one square-toed and one round-toed shoe! “This will teach you to never let people make decisions for you,” the cobbler said to his indecisive customer. “I learned then and there,” Reagan said later, “if you don’t make your own decisions, someone else will.” We can’t afford to let that happen!
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.